It’s a hole in the wall that screams Italian...the people, the atmosphere, and the food...oh yes, the food!
Gary Langevin was a young boy living in Naples, Italy, when he started washing dishes at his mother’s restaurant (“a family operation”). Surrounded by the freshest ingredients in the region, he acquired a rich and keen palette from the meals his mother and grandmother put in front of him after school.
Every day after the bus dropped him at home, he would ask his grandmother the same question: “Can you make me the Spaghetti Carbonara?”
The routine continued until one fateful day when Gary came home and asked for his usual snack. His grandmother said, “Let me show you how to make it.”
The next day, Gary once again returned from school and asked for the Spaghetti Carbonara. She looked at him and asked, “Remember how I showed you yesterday how to make it?” “Yeah,” Gary said. His grandmother smiled. “Well make it yourself.”
“That’s when I realized if I didn’t want to have to do something myself, I’d never learn anything,” Gary says, sitting outside Savannah’s Bella Napoli, one of the twelve restaurants in his La Famiglia Restaurant Group.
The Spaghetti Carbonara episode was the beginning of Gary’s career as a chef, a lifestyle he wouldn’t trade for the world.
BUILDING A NAME
Growing up in the restaurant business guaranteed Gary a life of opportunities to create new versions of his favorite dishes (including the Carbonara) inspired by his homeland. “It’s like I always say,” he explains while Bella’s speakers echoe Andrea Bocelli, “‘From the Lowcountry to the Old Country.’”
As the CEO and executive chef of La Famiglia (“The Family” in Italian), Gary ensures that Italian influence runs through each of his restaurants, from The Grandview on Tybee Island to Limoncello North in Florida’s Ormond Beach. With his blessing, his chefs anoint their respective locations with an array of distinct flair, personality, and “amore.”
Gary left Italy and returned to the U.S. when he was 18. Prior to establishing La Famiglia in Savannah and adopting it as his new home, he lived in Charleston for close to 20 years during which he owned and operated restaurants all over the area. After that tenure, he made his way to Hilton Head where he stayed for two years. Then he met Savannah.
“As soon as I got here I fell in love with Savannah,” Gary recalls. “When I went to Charleston about twenty-three years ago, it was like Savannah. Now Charleston has expanded tremendously. It’s not that little town where everybody knew each other. You can’t drive from one side of the town to the other in five minutes anymore in Charleston, but in Savannah you can. It’s everything that Charleston was when I first got there.”
La Famiglia currently operates six locations in Savannah, and Gary does not plan on leaving or resting on his laurels anytime soon.
“I felt back at home again here in Savannah because it’s still very friendly. Everybody is amazing and tries to help you out.”